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There's a photo on the inside of Lagos by Bus that shows 13 of the group's members backstage before an opening gig for Femi Kuti in Lagos. It is, needless to say, a prestigious show for the Afrobeat-oriented collective. More interesting, though, is how the white faces in the photo clearly outnumber the darker ones. While this writer has never been one to hold "global" music to some sort of litmus test of authenticity, this image is nonetheless striking, given the notions of cultural tourism it sparks. Looking like a group of ex-Peace Corps kids who got bitten by the Afrobeat bug, the many members of Aphrodesia — those 13 in the picture and nearly twice that many auxiliary players — should be applauded for defying the expectations their faces bring about. To be sure, the grooves on Lagos by Bus are far from authentic Afrobeat, and none of the songs here drive with the propulsive force of Fela's work. But it's that studied mellowness that makes Aphrodesia an interesting group. By tamping down the long-winded explosiveness associated with the style and focusing instead on a gentle sort of concision, the group manages a subtle funkiness that's polished but spirited. Add to that the glaringly female-centric vibe of the band and Aphrodesia emerges as a pleasant, contemporary reflection of the Kalakuta Nation — one that may not be as revolutionary in timbre but is still invigorating on its own terms.

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Jason Ferguson

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